DEM-301 Understand the Process and Experience of Dementia
Dementia has a number of scientific definitions. The term is used to describe a collection of signs and symptoms such as memory problems, communication difficulties, difficulties with organizing and planning one’s day-to-day life, changes in mood and behaviour, and the gradual loss of control of physical functions. These symptoms, taken together, are an indication of physical damage to the brain as a result of chronic progressive degeneration of nerve cells. The damage to the brain may be caused by a variety of different diseases: while Alzheimer’s disease is the commonest and best known cause, there are many others, such as vascular dementia, Lewy body dementia, Parkinson’s disease, frontotemporal dementia, alcohol-related dementias and prion diseases. In this write up, I use the term ‘dementia’ to refer to the effects of all these different causes of damage to the brain. The write up does not, however, cover temporary and reversible forms of damage to the brain, nor does it treat dementia as a form of mental disorder, for although dementia does potentially fall under definitions of ‘mental disorder’ used in UK mental health legislation, it is in practice primarily treated as a physical condition which affects mental capacity.
Dementia is widely seen as being synonymous with memory problems. This perception, however, is far from adequate. Some degree of memory impairment is an inevitable part of normal ageing and dementia is more than forgetfulness or poor memory. The symptoms of dementia include: more profound memory impairment which is not significantly improved either by the giving of ‘cues’ or through repetition; changes in attention, judgment and awareness; increasing difficulties in communication; visuo-spatial difficulties; and changes in speed of action and response. Changes in mood and behaviour, such as unpredictable anger and aggression, depression and apathy, are also strongly associated with...